The Best PDF Readers & Viewers for Mac (Free & Premium)
Utility • Jan. 15, 2021
Paper’s great for some things, but when it comes to reading and taking notes, the traditional medium is mediocre at best. You’ll agree with me that PDF files are super convenient. Not only do they offer graphic integrity that mixes well with the text of any format – but they’re also secure & compact.
Delivering work files in .PDF format has become a standard across many industries. But are you still struggling to open, edit, and save PDF files on your Mac?
If yes, this is the right article for you. Down below, we’ll tell you more about PDF, but also show you some of the best PDF readers you can use on your Mac.
Some of the choices will be free but others (for more demanding users) will be a premium (paid) version that gives paper the upgrade it needs and unlocks more options than you could imagine.
A bit about PDF reader apps for Mac
Even though all PDF viewer apps look the same and can even do similar things – there is a big difference between them.
We like to categorize different PDF viewer apps in 3 categories:
- Professional/Business Apps
- Recreational Use
- All-in-One Style/Convenient Use
The professional/business style of PDF viewers is all about providing the powerful features so you can basically tear up and re-do the document right within the viewer. This includes the ability to create fillable forms in PDF files, adding signatures, and compatibility with important third party apps.
Recreational use type of PDF readers is the lightweight version which has almost all features the most average user would need. This includes the ability to view and edit PDF files efficiently which includes reading eBooks, managing large PDFs, smooth scrolling, reading mode, and so on.
The last and the third type is an all-in-one type of a PDF viewer which has the ability to work well with third party apps but also incorporates the ability to pass the documents through PDF and send them directly to others. This includes features such as scanning ability, easy viewer, and ideal editor – all in one.
But with so many options available on the market, how do you know which will fit your needs well?
Keep on reading as that’s exactly what this article is for!
Top Mac PDF editors
As promised, we did all the hard work so we can showcase the top 11 Mac PDF editors. Some of them are free while others are premium, but we believe that anyone who’s reading this article will find a PDF reader that won’t be a pain in the neck! Here are the picks you’ll find below:
- Preview/Slim – Best For Recreational Use
- Adobe Acrobat Reader/Adobe Acrobat DC – Best for Professional/Business Use
- PDF Expert for Mac/PDFPen for Mac – Best for All-in-One Use
- Liquid Text PDF Reader – Best for All-in-One Use
- Google PDF Reader – Best for Recreational Use
- Foxit Reader for Mac/KDan PDF Reader – Best for Professional/Business Use
- Abbyy FineReader PDF – Best for All-in-One Use
Preview is the app that comes pre-installed on every Mac OS computer and it’s an app that can help you view PDF files, print the pages out, and do a bit of editing. However, if you’re trying to do anything more than that – you might not be happy with the options included within the Preview.
But if you don’t work with PDF files often and you only preview them before printing them out, Preview is more than ideal for you.Whenever you want to use Preview on a PDF file, all you have to do is double-click the PDF file to open it in Preview mode.
Preview is free and it comes pre-installed with any Apple computer.
Slim PDF Reader
On the other hand, if you would like to have a lightweight PDF reader app such as Preview with only a bit more functions available – a great choice would be Slim PDF.
Slim PDF is very similar to Preview, yet it allows you to add annotations, comments, fill out interactive forms, and even validate digital signatures.
It’s the “next best” app to Preview and yet it can do what Preview can’t.
Slim supports the latest Mac OS software and its interface even supports light/dark themes. Navigational experience is exceptional as all functions/features are listed in the top-bar taskbar that’s very similar to the one we’re all used to in the MS Word.
Also, if you’re on the hunt for the smallest app that won’t take a lot of space on your computer and yet it will provide you with the most basic features – you should note that Slim is 1/10 of other PDF reader apps such as Adobe Reader.
Slim PDF Reader is free for download.
Adobe Acrobat Reader/Adobe Acrobat DC
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Just like Windows became one of the most popular operating systems (if not the most popular), Adobe Acrobat Reader became the most popular PDF reader for computers.
And chances are that you’ve had Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer at one point in your life.
It’s a reliable choice that works flawlessly and yet it includes features that allow users to fully edit and manage PDF files.
So if you’re looking for a PDF reader that can fill out forms, offer an easy way to write annotations down, allow you to sign your signature on documents – Adobe Acrobat Reader makes a great choice.
Adobe Acrobat Reader is free to download.
Adobe Acrobat DC
While Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free and mighty version – if you require more features and you just want to have full control over your PDF files, Adobe Acrobat DC is the version you should be aiming for.
DC Reader is a premium (paid) version that includes features available in the free version – but it also adds pretty unique and useful features such as cloud storage.
Cloud-based functionality is really useful as it eases your mind knowing that you won’t ever be able to lose your most important PDF files.
Other great features of a DC reader are the ability to scan paper documents and turn them into PDF files with a press of a button.
DC stands for the Document Cloud and while the cloud-based feature is probably the feature you’ll pay the price of $33/month to access this feature.
PDF Expert for Mac/PDFPen for Mac
PDFExpert for Mac
PDFExpert is the exclusive PDF reader & editor for Mac OS and iOS products. This Mac-exclusive PDF reader app allows users to change text and images, fill in forms, sign contracts, and more.
Even though PDFExpert was firstly introduced as a way to manage PDF files on the go (iOS version) – it is now fully supported by the Mac OS.
The app itself makes scrolling through pages smooth, fast search within the PDF document, and a very minimalistic yet efficient layout that makes editing hundreds of pages a very simple task.
The free version offers everything the most average PDF user would need – but if you need extra features, you can invest $79.99 for the paid version.
PDFPen for Mac
If you aren’t on a tight budget and you’d like to invest a bit more to have the most comprehensive PDF reader app – PDFPen makes a great choice.
PDFPen supports OCR scanned documents, gives users the ability to proofread OCR text, and even find & correct typos.
Just like Adobe Reader DC, PDFPen can store PDF files in the cloud so there’s no chance of ever losing an important file.
The biggest help we believe is the ability to freely edit the PDF file by highlighting, drawing, or scribbling. This is perfect for users who use the iPad as well.
You can test out PDFPen for Mac for free the first 14 days, but the Premium version costs $74.95 and it’s available for purchase within the App Store.
[ More: Best OCR Apps for Mac and Windows ]
Liquid Text PDF Reader
Have one look at the Liquid Text PDF reader and you’d notice that it’s unlike any other reader out there. This PDF reader provides the fastest way to review and edit PDF documents faster by reading with speed and efficiency.
If you often work with PDF files that contain hundreds of pages, this PDF reader is made for such document dive.
Instead of getting lost in the pages, you’ll be able to find facts quickly, see connections you might otherwise miss out, but also go further than the digital paper to gather and organize your thoughts.
What’s good to know is that LiquidText doesn’t only support PDF files, but also PowerPoint presentations, Web pages, software from MS Office 365, and even third-party systems such as Dropbox, iCloud, Box and many others.
But what’s interesting is that LiquidText provides a different way to edit PDF files. It’s a new unique way that provides a different take/angle on the PDF files so you can stay productive, have less distractions, and get more work done.
Our favorite feature is the ability to search through pages without losing context.
Liquid Text PDF reader works flawlessly with the snappy Mac OS, but it’s also super-quick on iPads where you can help yourself with the pen.
Liquid Text PDF reader is free to use but it also comes with a Premium version that only costs $9.99 and yet it unlocks more features.
Google Chrome PDF Reader
Google has many quality tools available right within the browser for free and Google Chrome PDF reader is just another benefit for Chrome browser users.
Chrome browser is fully compatible with Mac OS and if you’re often working with files directly within your browser (rather than downloading them to your Mac), you’ll love the browser-integrated PDF reader.
It uses HTML5 to display PDF files directly within the browser and it even has built-in PDF.js which makes portable PDF documents accessible.
In order to enable it, you have to type in “chrome://flags” in the browser, search for PDF Viewer and enable it. Restart the Chrome browser and go ahead and open a PDF file. You’ll notice the PDF file opens directly in Chrome’s integrated PDF viewer.
Even though it doesn’t have a ton of options and features that can help you edit your documents – doing small changes and previews won’t make you come across any obstacles.
It’s not a bad free PDF reader option for everyone who’s mostly working with PDF files from a Google Suite.
Google Chrome PDF Reader is free to activate within the Chrome browser.
Foxit Reader for Mac/KDan PDF Reader
Foxit Reader for Mac
If you’re often dealing with PDF files for a business or work purpose – Foxit Reader for Mac might be a great option for you.
It’s a PDF reader with professionals in mind. It allows professional PDF creation in only a couple of clicks. Another great feature is the ability to integrate your professionally-made PDF files with popular enterprise CMS.
For example, you would be able to open your PDF files directly within software such as iManage WorkSite and SharePoint. We believe that this improves the workflow and efficiency and it’s a unique feature that’s worth having.
We also love the option to add headers, footers, watermarks over documents. With additional tools to edit/customize a PDF file – Foxit Reader packs everything you would need to fully reconstruct a PDF file or create a professional-looking PDF file from scratch.
Foxit Reader for Mac offers a free trial version that gives you the best chance to test out the software. However, the Premium version costs $169.93. It’s a pricey investment but it’s worth the price if you’re a professional or own a business.
KDan PDF Reader
If you’re looking for a way to increase your PDF productivity while you view, edit, sign, and convert PDF files daily – KDan makes another great PDF reader suitable for professionals.
Probably one of the most interesting features of KDan PDF reader is the ability to adjust the background for a more eye-friendly reading experience. If you have ever felt that your eyes are tired from viewing all your PDF files throughout the day – KDan can make a change.
Another great feature is the ability to store all your important PDF files digitally inside the app (in a folder) just like you would do on your Mac. What’s the benefit of this?
It’s the ability to stay organized, reduce clutter, and be in control of your work in groups.
Signing, editing, and filling out PDF files paperlessly is another possibility that saves time and reduces the use of paper.
Overall, considering its features and added security – KDan PDF reader is a great reader for both average users and professionals/businesses.
KDan PDF Reader offers a trial that’s free to download, but the Premium version costs $89.99.
Abbyy FineReader PDF
Abbyy FineReader is a PDF app that offers a smarter solution. It’s an app that empowers professionals by creating a quality digital workplace for all users who are drowning in PDF files.
This PDF app is based on smart AI OCR technology which makes it very easy to digitize files, edit, protect, share, and collaborate with others on the PDF documents you work on.
Even though FineReader PDF is ideal for businesses/professionals, it’s also suitable for individuals who have a high-load of PDF files or just want to experience the smoothness of a PDF reader that’s based on the artificial intelligence engine.
Included in the PDF reader are all features you might be looking for to create fillable PDF forms, compare documents in different formats, sign PDFs, edit/fill PDFs, and more.
Abbyy FineReader offers a free trial to test out the software, but the Premium version costs $199.
Need more than a PDF Reader?
As you can see, some PDF readers have everything you would need to view and edit documents.
On the other hand, we have a couple of picks that are aimed more towards businesses and professionals that require every possible feature they can get to stay organized and efficient throughout their workday.
But what if you’re an individual (or a businessman) who needs more than a PDF reader?
Any option from the last couple of picks is a great choice, but our recommendation is a PDF Editor that runs on an AI OCR technology.
With this, you’ll be able to go paperless, sign documents on the go, turn any type of physical documents into PDF, work with more formats, but also collaborate with others on the same PDF file and even save them in the cloud for extra security.